Wednesday, September 9, 2015

English in Thailand: An easier, less expensive path

Sent to the Bangkok Post, September 9, 2015
As I understand it, Thailand is taking the following steps to improve English language teaching ("English language teaching: Cambridge to the rescue," Sept. 8)
1.    Bring in new exams, and include test scores on graduation certificates.
2.    Set up "intensive" language classes.
3.    Bring in foreign teachers to coach Thai teachers.
There is no basis in the research supporting any of these steps, and there is plenty of research supporting an easier and less expensive way.
First, studies show that increasing testing and testing pressure does not improve achievement. It only results in more "test preparation," ways of doing better on the exam without actually improving in the language.
Second, there are more efficient and pleasant ways of improving than intensive classes.  Study after study shows that for intermediate students time spent doing self-selected pleasure reading in English improves all aspects of English. Pleasure reading in English is an excellent predictor of TOEFL scores, and also results in improved TOEIC scores.
Third, a Thai teacher who knows pedagogy, can recommend good reading material, and speaks English well is far preferable to an untrained foreign teacher who only has the advantage of a better accent.
For a more efficient and less expensive approach to English, I suggest comprehension-based methods in the early stages such as TPRS and Natural Approach, shown repeatedly to be superior to traditional instruction, and at the intermediate level encouraging a pleasure reading habit in English, through classes in popular literature and increased library holdings.

Stephen Krashen
Professor Emeritus
University of Southern California
Original article: http://www.bangkokpost.com/learning/easy/685032/english-language-teaching-cambridge-to-the-rescue

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